SMC Infra rolls out seamless southern tollways project

SMC Infrastructure on Thursday, December 1, 2022, implemented its “Seamless Southern Tollways” program to eliminate multiple toll stops for northbound and southbound motorists.

For years, Southern Luzon-bound motorists stop for toll and encounter traffic buildups at the South Luzon Expressway’s (SLEX) Calamba toll plaza, the SLEX-Greenfield toll plaza, and again at the Sto. Tomas exit, Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR).

Now, the usual five stops will be down to two.

“This is a welcome development for so many of our countrymen who will be heading home to the provinces this December,” says Department of Transportation (DoTR) Secretary Jaime Bautista.

“Beyond the holidays, this initiative will make the transportation of people and goods to and from Southern Luzon provinces faster and more efficient, with no impact or change in toll rates,” he added.

The program will make travel along STAR, SLEX, and the entire Skyway system (Stages 1,2,3) faster San Miguel Corporation (SMC) president Ramon S. Ang reiterated.

“Our goal was to cut down toll stops from five to just two–entry and exit–whether for electronic RFID or cash payments, for both southbound and northbound vehicles across all our southern tollways,” he explained.

“With this, we can make trips for motorists faster, more seamless, and less stressful, as they will no longer need to endure long queues at multiple toll plazas within the expressways,” Ang stressed.

In the current scheme, southbound motorists coming from the north and heading to as far as Batangas in the south, usually have to make five stops: Entry via the Del Monte Skyway 3 toll plaza, then another three stops at the Calamba, SLEX Greenfield, and Sto. Tomas toll plazas, and a final stop at their exit point.

Under the new scheme, this will be cut down to just two–at the entry and exit points.

The same will be implemented for northbound traffic, which currently have to make toll stops at the Sto. Tomas main plaza, SLEX Greenfield, the Skyway main plaza in Alabang, and then the Skyway 3 exit.

In the new set-up, all toll plazas in the middle will be pass-through, with payment stops made only at the Skyway main plaza, and the exit point.

Implementation of the new Seamless Southern Tollways program for southbound traffic is set for December 1, while northbound traffic will benefit from the same set-up by December 15.

Integration of the NAIA Expressway is set for the first quarter of 2023.

Since the pandemic, ETC penetration has grown from 45% to 80%, allowing for safer, more efficient toll collection, and the implementation of technology-based solutions to previous traffic constraints.

When the pandemic hit, SMC successfully implemented its program to waive toll fees for some 10,500 medical front-liners for about one year and three months, through its Autosweep RFID system, which amounted to over P246.5 million.

In recent weeks, it also successfully effected an electronic refund for motorists affected by a momentary disruption in the toll collection system, caused by a vehicular accident.

For one, while there is no change in toll rates whatsoever, fees that used to be collected at the eliminated toll stops will be added to the total fees to be collected at the exit point.

“Some motorists may find this confusing at first, and they might wonder why the toll fee is ‘higher’. This may even lead to traffic buildup at some exit points as some motorists will inevitably take longer to make inquiries,” Ang pointed out.

“We want to make sure, as much as we can, that all motorists understand that there are no toll fee increases, and that we still also have to pay for use of the various expressways. It’s just that all the remaining payments will be collected in one go at the exit,” Ang clarified.

The Seamless Southern Tollways program is also part of SMC Infra’s preparation for full interoperability with other expressways, which it has been pushing for, and working on with government and other tollway operators.

“This improvement in the southern tollways will enhance the upcoming interoperability project, as it will contribute to the overall seamlessness of travel across all expressways,” he noted.

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